Tonight I found out my husband is having an affair. Tonight all the pieces I had never seen, attached. I’m conscious that I should feel something. Jealousy. Anger. But nothing seems to penetrate. Wait; there is certain sympathy for the ‘other woman’. The object of her desire is at present downstairs sipping on his second brandy. Would she find him so attractive, I wonder, if she saw him in his natural habitat? Sprawled on his armchair, his distended stomach pushing against his belt, the faint aroma of garlic lingering in the air around him from the last meal we ate. His shirt so meticulously ironed earlier, now unbuttoned halfway down his chest. Reading glasses balancing on the tip of his nose as he flicks through his yachting magazine and watching television simultaneously. I scan the bedroom. The underwear he discarded earlier in his throes of passion are still lying on the floor where they will remain until I remove them. Shuddering, I turn away from the life he has so casually and assuredly cast around me. The smell of his aftershave hangs in the air reminding me of a long departed security I once felt. I wore the dress he bought me. He had laid it out on the bed while I showered. The crimson lace like blood against the white sheets. It would be more suited to a woman fifteen years younger but, I put it on. As we sat in the car on the way to the party, he complained about the meal we had eaten. The scallops were overdone, the chorizo too spicy. He pushed his hand between my legs as he spoke, unaware I had flinched. He’s driven by a lust I don’t possess and can’t satisfy. He doesn’t let it bother him now, or stop him anymore.
We held hands as we walked into the party. The darkness of the room hid everyone. We stood, shadows at the door, not talking.
“There you both are,” his business partner, John said, walking up to greet us.
He kissed each of my cheeks and made a show of holding me away from him to scrutinise me.
“Looking younger every time I see you.”
I smiled and looked away as John thanked us for coming. My husband led the way into the main room, a long table stood against the far wall, covered with cloths. The room had balloons drooping from pillars, banners with big 5-0’s draped walls. As I took in the decor I noticed her noticing him. She was watching him, holding the side of a glass of wine against her mouth. Her gaze never left him and when he looked up and saw her, his eyes darted to mine. I turned to the table saying hello to my companions and out of the corner of my eye I followed him as he walked across the room to her. I was forgotten. I moved closer to the other wives, giving me a subtle, but comfortable view. She seemed quite young to me. I watched as she lit up when he spoke to her. Her head fell back as she laughed; pushing her breasts against the confines of her dress she wore. The dress, the colour of the sea, stopped short of her knees. It swayed around her as she moved, as if she was gliding on a gentle gust of wind. She wasn’t as tall as I first thought, her heels lifted her to his shoulder height. As she spoke to him, her hand reached out to his arm, touching it lightly, as if to emphasise a point she was making. She then folded her arms, tilting her head slightly. She was radiating by the time he walked away. I envied her that feeling. I cannot ever remember glowing from the inside out. How beautiful to shine with love for another. For the rest of the night, her gaze followed him around the room. I knew he felt the weight of it. His eyes met hers several times, giving her his infamous wink. I had glanced around the room, no sympathetic eyes met mine. So no one knew yet?
When we arrived back at the house, I retired to the bedroom. I washed my face and stripped for bed. The mirror caught my eye. My naked body taunting me. Minutes passed as I stood looking at myself, recalling the firmness of my skin, the uprightness of it all. Age is a cruel master. It will creep up and rob the elasticity from the skin; leave its calling card on your face. It will invade joints, reminding you every time you bend down you have a new friend who will never leave you. My husband doesn’t seem to have the same relationship with age as I do. Too many times, with dismay, I’ve noticed the double take when we go out together, the ‘Is that your wife?’ question is never spoken but is there, hanging. The irony is he’s the older of us. He is a good man and he is good to me. We used to complement each other. We were friends first and fell into marriage. At the time it seemed the most reasonable direction to go. There were no heady days of romance and passion, but we travelled, we laughed and we grew together.
The laughter has long dried up. We just about talk, both of us caught up in our own work and hobbies, with no room for the other. As the years advanced, we found more to entertain us than each other. We discovered interests we never knew we had. Different interests. More and more we began spending less and less time together.
Pulling on a housecoat, I sneak down the stairs to get a glass of milk. I don’t want him to hear me; he might decide to follow me up. As I pass the study, I see him through the small gap in the door. He is on his laptop. By the rapt look on his face, I guess what he is looking at. This is where he gets his ideas. This is why he will whisper in my ear asking me to say ridiculous things, words beyond my vocabulary. Sometimes I’m close to screaming at him, ‘Fuck me. Fuck me till I bleed.’ Completing my humiliation. Be careful what you wish for. As I turn to leave, I notice the phone next to the laptop. He’s waiting. His phone goes everywhere with him, even the bathroom. I spend my time ignoring the light flashing from the screen. I ignore his hand creeping up to cover it and I ignore the fact it is always on mute. I would love to tell her she can have him. ‘He’s all yours, beautiful.’ I would say, as I retreat to my books in peace. The annoyance of meals and television obliterated from my everyday world. Maybe she’ll scream the words he longs to hear.
I turn the bedroom light off. The glow from the en-suite partially illuminates the room. My clothes lay in a heap on the tiled floor beside the bath. There is no intention of moving them. My mind wanders to my children, scattered across the world, their children still young. They fell into our great plan. Well-reared, well-travelled, successful offspring. Grandchildren we only know through the wonder of technology, taking the urgency to visit away. I read somewhere that leaving a note was a cry for help. I’m not crying and I’m not looking for help. I’m taking control, regaining the power.
The line of tablets that run across the top of the dresser reminds me of the Hansel and Gretel story. I pick up the first one and swallow it with my milk. I too, like Hansel and Gretel, am following the trail home.